Watch | Kalahari Dreams

What SA Michelin-star chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen has created in Restaurant Klein JAN is a triumph. Not only due to its remoteness in the Kalahari Desert, but also because of his dedication to being one with the land. Jan Hendrik has transcended the very idea of what it is to be a chef, entering into a space where food and art combine. If you don’t believe us here at Caesarstone, then make sure to watch and read below…

CHAPTER ONE: IN A PICKLE

The local ingredients in the Kalahari are the life supply of Restaurant Klein JAN. It’s important to Jan Hendrik that everything they do blends naturally with the surroundings. This also presents a unique set of complications as supplies aren’t always readily available year-round. “All the ingredients at Klein JAN are local, handpicked, and some only ripen at certain times of the year. We need to preserve them and make sure they last throughout all of the seasons,” remarks Jan Hendrik.

“One example is the Tsamma Melon – some of which are actually bitter so you need to taste them before you start the pickling process. Some might even be on the edge of being on the medicinal side.” The Tsamma Melon is a type of watermelon that grows wild in most of western, central, and southern Africa.

Tsamma Melons resemble watermelons on the outside but have a pale flesh with black seeds on the inside. It is of particular value to the historic San tribes for its nutritious seeds and high-water content. There is a belief that a person can survive for six weeks on nothing but the Tsamma Melon.

“The beautiful thing about the Tsamma Melon is as soon as you pickle them, and they go in the root cellar, all you need to do is give them six months. As anything with time, they just get more beautiful and delicious.” When working with local ingredients, it’s important to be mindful of how to maximise its uses and unique flavours. “Picking these babies, they are about 38-40 degrees Celsius out in the sun on the Kalahari Desert sand. So, when we bring them indoors, we work on a cool surface and then they go into the root cellar. It’s the contrast of temperature and nature – that’s just what this place is all about.”

Caesarstone’s Oxidian surface reminds Jan Hendrik of this contrast with its “warm tones and underlying sense of coolness”. Just like the ingredients, this material effortlessly connects with the Kalahari and the restaurant itself. “There’s this sense of organic material that you see in the stone – and it really connects with the ingredients and the way we work with them.”

Restaurant Klein JAN is unique not only for its location, but for the flow of energy that is carried through the surfaces, underground cellars, and restaurant space. “I can’t help but think how it all comes together so beautifully. It makes our work not only feel special, but we know we’re doing the right thing.”

CHAPTER TWO: GRASBROOD (GRASS BREAD)

Next stop on the culinary train is Jan Hendrik’s super thin and gorgeously fluffy ‘grasbrood’, or grass bread. Jan Hendrik sets it on the table as if its dry grass plucked from the hot sand. Once again, the brilliance of the Oxidian surface is a key player in making the bread. “We’re working in really warm temperatures, and the secret to the perfect bread is to work on a cool surface,” says Jan Hendrik.

“Working on Caesarstone’s solid surface, which is really cold, helps to make the bread-making process much easier.” Jan Hendrik’s love for nature and organic, local ingredients is inspiring. Every step is meticulously thought out and it fits in with the tangible energy of the vast Kalahari Desert. “If you think about it, this bread really incorporates all four elements and brings it into one. Fire represents how we bake the bread. Earth refers to the actual surface that we roll it on. Water is a super important tool in the process. Finally, air gives the bread an irresistible and fluffy softness.”

CHAPTER THREE: LAND OF BUTTER AND HONEY

The quirky elements of Restaurant Klein JAN add to its level of charm because it speaks to a deep understanding of food. Nothing is wasted with everything coming from the surrounding areas. This uplifts the local communities and brings Kalahari flavours to a global stage.

A quirky element that’s bound to put a smile on everyone’s faces is the pouches of handmade butter that hang on trees. “Butter normally doesn’t grow on trees – but in the Kalahari they kind of do. We whip local farm milk into the most beautiful butter and we season it with salt from the Kalahari salt pans. Then we add in a little bit of local honey and wrap it into these beautiful pouches to hang in the cheese room. It’s an experience out of this world.”

When Jan Hendrik speaks about this butter, his passion for Restaurant Klein JAN is evident. Never before have we wanted to taste butter so badly! It just looks so amazing, especially because of the pistachio flower honey with its “delicious, caramel-like texture, and beautiful dark undertones of orange and floral flavours.”

We love how Jan Hendrik creates this magical butter directly on his Oxidian surface, click the images below to find out more on this versatile and trendy colour: 

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